Lord Sycamore: Understory
Aching to Be Had: Story Under the Song
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"Story Under the Song" for "Aching to Be Had"
track 2 from Child Coming Home (album, 2019)
WHERE DID THE SONG COME FROM?
In July 2019 I was working hard to finish recording and mixing “Child Coming Home” for a deadline of August 1st. In the final days before the deadline, my wife managed to drag me away from the project to enjoy the summer weather. With our son and a guitar, we drove down to the creek near her parents’s house.
I swam with my family for a little while, then sat on the bank alone and thought. I began to notice that I felt deeply unsettled, almost unhappy. It was a feeling that didn’t square with the blessings of my happy family, the bright sunshine, and a fulfilling project.
To get a handle on this strange feeling, I got out the guitar and a pad of paper and I wrote the first verse of "Aching to Be Had."
HOW DID THE SONG GROW?
Over the next few days, I stole away -- both from my family and from “Child Coming Home”-- to work on the song and to pray about the unsettled feeling I had. If you’d taken a picture of me at the riverbank, you could have argued I had everything I needed. So what was I longing for? Why was I restless?
Answers didn't come. More confusingly, as I wrestled (Jacob-style) with the feeling and with the song, I started to think that God wanted me to put this song on the album — twice. In fact, not only did the album need this song twice, but it needed a third song — a setting of Psalm 84.
I was cutting it close to deadline already, and this felt like too much. I actively resisted the possibility. In fact, if it weren’t for answers to prayer like a very surprising advertising opportunity, the album would probably be 3 songs shorter. Ultimately, though, “Aching to Be Had” made the cut because of how it fit into the story of “Child Coming Home.”
WHY DOES THIS STORY MATTER?
“Child Coming Home” tells the story of a prodigal coming to parenthood. I draw my understanding of a "prodigal" (someone who's spiritually "on the run" from God) from the parable of the two sons in Luke 5:11-32. In the parable, the prodigal has a realization which mirrors the Singer's in “Aching To Be Had.” See Luke 5:15-18a:
"15 He went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He wanted to fill his belly with the husks that the pigs ate, but no one gave him any. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough to spare, and I’m dying with hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father..."
Did you catch it? The son "came to himself." Though his hunger was strong, he remembered that he was more than his body, more than his appetites. In particular, he remembered where he came from. This is the spiritual realization that "Aching to Be Had" is trying to express.
"You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you." - St. Augustine
"If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world." - C.S. Lewis
Ultimately, we (and the Singer) are made for more than the material world. (That's not to say, of course, the material world is bad. It's good.) The Bible says that though the first man and woman had everything they needed, they disobeyed God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As a result, they (and we) are separated from God. Without Him in whose image we're made, we experience a profound kind of "homelessness" or "exile."
That's why the best the world can offer is not enough. We need to be home with God before our hearts will be at rest. For the Singer, the fresh wound of his girlfriend’s departure has prepared his heart to be open to the greater wound of his distance from God.
By the end of the song, we hear that if someone were to offer him a relationship that heals this wound, he might just take it. In the next song, “Come to Me,” he'll hear just such a call.
But for now, that’s the story of "Aching to Be Had."